“She’s stupid and ugly!” shouted one of my third graders in an outburst of rage and tears. She sat hunched over, fuming, pointing her back directly at another of my students who had wronged her in some mysterious way I didn’t manage to understand.
“Shut your face!” retorted the supposed perpetrator.
In these moments, which happen about once every other class, I remember that childhood can really suck sometimes.
Being the responsible adult in the room, I want to help diffuse this tension that has engulfed two of my students. I tell them that those comments are unacceptable, that they are part of a dance community that doesn’t tolerate that kind of behavior, that they are supposed to support one another. I want to think that my words will steer them towards a kinder, gentler interaction but within seconds, I see that they don’t. From my own experiences as a kid, I know that these wars are fought by the kids themselves and any attempt to soothe will most likely be brushed off, forgotten, as both sides search their minds for more powerful ammunition. Without making an extreme gesture, I have little hope of sorting out the aggression between these two girls.
With kids, it’s easy to assume that the fights are a passing phase and that they hold no real emotional water. But, ask any adult and they’ll probably be able to remember being on one side or another of the bullying coin.
At their age, I was the victim of a very mean, manipulative bully. She, along with her two lackeys, one of whom was my ex-best friend, made a point of ruining my life for three whole years. They excluded me, spread rumors behind my back and dumped the contents of my desk three times a week, along with many other hideous things that kids do to each other. Years later I realized that her torment didn’t stay locked in the hallways of my grade school. It followed me through life, haunting me like a monster in the closet.
Bullying is a very hot topic right now. Around the world, a handful of tragic suicides have brought the dangers of bullying into the forefront of the educational system’s attention. Luckily for me, at the time that I was bullied, there was no online expression for the harassment. My predators used the telephone to torment me after school...Read More